Meniscus Repair Rehabilitation: Why Are We Still Stuck in the 90’s?

Meniscus injuries within the knee are a common occurrence.  In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that meniscus surgery is the most frequent surgical procedure performed by orthopedic surgeons in the United States, with more than 50% of the procedures performed in patients 45 years of age or older.

Despite this high occurrence, many inconsistencies continue to exist in the rehabilitation of a patient following meniscus repair surgery, particularly involving the rate of weightbearing and range of motion.

I’m still shocked by this and wanted to discuss the recent research that is lending to a more progressive approach to return people safely back to their prior level of function.

Rehabilitation Follow Meniscus Repair

meniscus repair surgery weightbearingRehabilitation after surgical debridement of the meniscus is pretty straightforward. We return the patient’s range of motion, strength and function per their symptoms and let pain and swelling guide the rehab process (a very general guide but one often employed by many rehabilitation specialists).

However, when the meniscus is actually repaired and not just debrided, there are other factors to consider.  When a meniscus is repaired, the tear is approximated using stitches to allow the tear to heal.  

Rehabilitation following a meniscus repair has to be more conservative, however, despite research saying otherwise, there are still many rehabilitation protocols floating around the orthopaedic and sports medicine world that recommend limiting weight-bearing and range of motion after a meniscal repair.  We continue to ignore the literature because of fear that the ‘stress’ on the meniscus with walking and range of motion may be too high.

Unfortunately, many of these commonly used protocols are from the 1990’s. (The current protocols we use can be found at RehabilitationProtocols.com)

So if we’re going to talk 90’s protocols, take a look at these studies from way back when from Shelbourne  and Barber  that showed excellent results in patients undergoing a combined ACL-meniscus repair procedure and utilizing no limitations in weightbearing or range of motion, similar to a protocol for an isolated ACL reconstruction.

Recent studies from VanderHave and Lind on isolated meniscus repairs have shown similar results using an “aggressive” program of immediate weightbearing compared to a more conservative approach.

I certainly wouldn’t consider these “aggressive” programs, they simply used immediate weightbearing and range of motion.

Again, these studies show meniscal repair outcomes are no different while using restricted weightbearing and range of motion versus an “aggressive” protocol of immediate weight-bearing and unlimited range of motion.

Early Weightbearing After Meniscus Repair

meniscus repair surgery range of motionBut what about the exact mechanisms that many are still fearful of allowing early in the process, like early walking and range of motion? Won’t that put the repair in a position to fail?

We typically immobilize people in full extension during weightbearing, locked in a brace for 4-6 weeks after meniscal repair surgery.

So, if immobilized in extension, why do we limit weightbearing?

During weightbearing, compressive forces are loaded across the menisci. These tensile forces create ‘hoop stresses’, which expand the menisci in extension. These hoop stresses are thought to be helping the healing process in many tears by approximating the tissue.

Furthermore, the compressive loads applied while weightbearing in full extension following a vertical, longitudinal repair or bucket-handle repair have been shown to reduce the meniscus and stabilize the tear, as noted by Rodeo  and more recently by McCulloch.

Early Range of Motion After Meniscus Repair

What about early range of motion?

There is very limited literature on the influences of range of motion on meniscal movement. Thompson showed that during flexion, the posterior excursion of the medial meniscus was 5.1 mm, while that of the lateral meniscus was 11.2 mm.

Looking at meniscal movement as the knee flexes in weightbearing and non-weightbearing you can see there’s less motion, although I really don’t think we know how much motion is detrimental. The motion has been shown to help improve blood flow to the area. This is huge and may aid in the healing process!meniscus biomechanics

What Do We Recommend?

Anecdotally, I can say we have handled meniscal repairs to allow weightbearing and range of motion to tolerance for many years.  Some of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world that I have worked with currently handle a meniscal repair the same as an ACL reconstruction with a meniscal repair .

For an isolated meniscal repair, I prefer the knee continue to be immobilized in full extension for 4-6 weeks but allowed full weightbearing immediately (if a longitudinal repair). For complex repairs, I would recommend limiting weightbearing to partial but understand that the hoop stresses could aid in healing and are arguably helpful and necessary.  For both cases, I would recommend passive range of motion to tolerance.

Trust me, I respect the healing meniscus and continually monitor patients as I progress their range of motion and weight-bearing activities. Things like new joint line pain along the site of the repair, new swelling or a change in pain patterns, and even clicking (although most people have this) are all signs that I may want to further assess and modify my progression.

Based off of this, I continue to stand by my rehab guidelines of full, pain free passive range of motion and immediate weightbearing after a vertical longitudinal meniscal repair. The literature is screaming this same thing at us but we continue to ignore their calls and revert to the 90’s!

What do the surgeons that you work with recommend?  Are any of them still recommending rehab guidelines based on outdated research?  Comment below and let me know, I want to hear what the rest of the country is seeing!

Learn How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

If you want to learn even more about meniscus rehabilitation, we discuss all of this this and much more in our online knee course at OnlineKneeSeminar.com where we teach you exactly how we evaluate and treat the knee.  Click below to learn more:

6 Keys to ACL Rehabilitation

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on 6 Keys to ACL Rehabilitation is now available.

 

6 Keys to ACL Rehabilitation

6 keys to acl rehabilitationThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on 6 Keys to ACL Rehabilitation.  In this presentation, I’ll go over the 6 key foundational principles that you need to understand to maximize your results with ACL rehab.  There are many surgical and patient variables that may speed up or slow down the standard rehab progression, however, you can build an optimal program by following these 6 principles.

This webinar will cover:

  • The #1 complication after ACL rehab, prolonged weakness, and how to minimize this
  • The two most important things to focus on during the first week of rehabilitation
  • How to develop advanced strength programs and alter periodization schemes in the rehab setting
  • My simple, yet effective, criteria to return to activities

 

To access this webinar:

 

OnlineKneeSeminar.com Bloopers!

Since I’m writing this on Friday the 13th, I thought it would be funny to share some bloopers from OnlineKneeSeminar.com, our program teaching you exactly how Lenny Macrina and I evaluate and treat the knee.  

It’s not as easy as everyone thinks to film these programs so Lenny and I wanted to share some quick bloopers from the filming!

Happy Friday the 13th!

Learn Exactly How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

Want to learn even more about how I evaluate and treat the knee?  You still can!  My online program on the Recent Advances in the Evidence-Based Evaluation and Treatment of the Knee is now available.  I’ll show you everything you need to master the knee.  Click the button below for more information and to sign up now!
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The Best and Easiest Way to Restore Knee Extension

One of the most common complications following a knee injury or surgery is not restoring full knee extension.  Losing knee extension causes a lot of issues, ranging from anterior knee pain, to altered movement patterns, to even difficulty when walking.

It’s super important to assure you restore full knee extension.

In this video below, Lenny Macrina, my co-owner of Champion and co-author of OnlineKneeSeminar.com, shares what he considers the best way to restore full knee extension.  Luckily, it’s not only the best in our minds but also the easiest to perform!  More importantly, he discusses why he doesn’t like one of the most common exercises that people tend to use.

 

 

Learn Exactly How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

Want to learn even more about how I evaluate and treat the knee?  My online program on the Recent Advances in the Evidence-Based Evaluation and Treatment of the Knee is now available.  I’ll show you everything you need to master the knee.  Click the button below for more information and to sign up now!

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The One Thing You Must Do When Evaluating for an ACL Injury

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common. When evaluating the ACL, special tests like a Lachman Test or Anterior Drawer have been shown to have great reliability and validity.

However, there is one main reason why you may get a false positive for an ACL injury of the knee that is often overlooked – you actually injured your posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)!

I know, it seems backwards, but watch this quick video for my explanation!

 

Learn Exactly How I Evaluate and Treat the Knee

Want to learn even more about how I evaluate and treat the knee? My online program on the Recent Advances in the Evidence-Based Evaluation and Treatment of the Knee is now available. I’ll show you everything you need to master the knee.  Click the button below for more information and to sign up now!

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3 Tips for Assessing the Patellofemoral Joint

The latest Inner Circle recording on 3 Tips for Assessing the Patellofemoral Joint is now available.

3 Tips for Assessing the Patellofemoral Joint

3 Tips for Assessing the Patellofemoral Joint

This month’s Inner Circle presentation is on 3 Tips for Assessing the Patellofemoral Joint.  In this live inservice recording, I discuss a few tips that that I follow when evaluating someone with anterior knee pain, or patellofemoral pain syndrome.  Often times the patellofemoral joint gets little attention during the examination.  But, in order to treat patellofemoral pain successfully, you need to have an accurate diagnosis that is very specific.  Not all anterior knee pain is the same!

This presentation will cover:

  • How your anatomy of your trochlea can alter your ability to statically stabilize
  • How to assess the static stabilizers of the patella
  • A detailed overview of how I palpate different soft tissue structures around the knee
  • How and why you need to look both proximally and distally as well as at the knee
  • The one simple test I do with everyone to assess how proximal and distal factors xalter the forces at the knee

To access this webinar:

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the Lunge

One thing I talk about a lot when it comes to training and rehabilitation is the need to train the body in all three planes.  This often requires moving in one plane of motion and stabilizing in the other two.   We are often very good at moving in the sagittal plane, and poor at stabilizing in the transverse and frontal planes.  This is a big topic of discussion in my program Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body.

To enhance this triplanar stability, we often attempt to facilitate greater contraction of the gluteus medius muscle during sagittal plane exercises.  The lunge in particular is a great exercise for triplanar stability as the narrow stance challenges strength in the sagittal plane and stability in the transverse and frontal planes.

 

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the Lunge

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the LungeA recent study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that investigated the effect of holding a dumbbell in either the contralateral or ipsilateral hand during a split squat and forward lunge.  (Note: they called it a “walking lunge” but I am 99% certain it was a forward lunge, so I’m just going to say forward lunger in this article…  probably just semantics.)

The study found that:

  • Holding the dumbbell on the ipsilateral side had no effect on glute med activity.
  • Holding the dumbbell on the contralateral side resulted in a significant increase in glute med activity, but only during the forward lunge, not the split squat.

I was a bit surprised that glute med activity was not impacted during the split squat, but perhaps the static nature of the position inherently requires less transverse and frontal plane stability.

There was one other finding from this study that I thought was interesting.  Kinematic differences during the forward lunge were found between a group of trained individuals in comparison to a group without training experience.

This makes sense as the forward lunge is a complex movement pattern that requires an understanding of how to control the pattern.  It requires both mobility and stability, but also the ability to control the eccentric deceleration phase.

contralateral lungeHowever, there were no kinematic differences between training age during the split squat, meaning that both novice and experienced trainees performed the split squat in a similar fashion.  This make split squats a great exercise to incorporate in the early phases of training for those with limited training experience, eventually progressing to forward lunge as they get better at moving and stabilizing the pattern.

This helps solidify the use of split squats in our lunge regression system.

 

Implications

I like simple studies like this.  Having the rationale to make small tweaks to your program is what sets you apart.  It’s the small things that may not be obvious at first but will produce better results over time.

Based on these results, I would recommend using the split squat with bilateral dumbbells to maximize strength gains since a unilateral load did not alter glute med activity.  The split squat is more of a basic exercise, so why not just use it to work on strength gains in the novice trainee.  As the person progresses, you can add the forward lunge variation with a contralateral load to enhance triplanar stability.

 

 

 

Can PCL Injuries Be Successfully Treated Without Surgery?

Champion Physical Therapy and Performance

My latest article is now up on the new Champion Physical Therapy and Performance blog!  I discuss a recent research study that looked at the outcomes of subjects with PCL deficient knees that were followed for up to 21 years.

Pretty interesting stuff that shows the efficacy of our programs!  However, as you’ll read, we can do as much harm as good when designing exercises for people with PCL injuries.

Read the article here and be sure to sign up to receive all the updates from the Champion blog, there is plenty more coming from the Champion team!

 

I have also announced my latest Inner Circle webinar will overview my manual therapy system.  I’ve been really trying to create systems for all aspects of what I do as we build out Champion Physical Therapy and Performance.

Last month, I talked about how I design functional rehabilitation programs.  This month is devoted to manual therapy.  In this webinar I’ll discuss my system to performing manual therapy, including the specific order and techniques that I perform.  This system can be used for any issue depending on the needs of the patient.

I like to take a systematic approach for several reasons:

  1. Assures consistency between sessions
  2. Assures consistency between therapists
  3. Creates reliable and predictable results
Join me Wednesday August 27th at 8:00 PM EST for the live webinar or be sure to catch the recorded when it is posted.
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